Show us your grill!

Halloween is not a big day for me. It's just not high on my list of priorities. And when you're a homeschooling mama to six chil'rens, you need to have your priorities in order or your world will come crashing down around you.

Sadly, I'm not one of those mom's who decorate their house with webs and giant spiders. I don't make pumpkin-shaped cookies. And, I don't plan on each child's costume. I mean, I can't rationalize spending $$$ that I don't have on costumes they'll wear for a few hours when I could be buying them clothes that they will actually wear everyday. I mean, hello, I just recycled a soggy roll of toilet paper.

I'm nothing if not practical.

What I've discovered is, we get by on donated costumes or we just get creative and run with it. This year was no different. We celebrated Halloween on Friday because we were going to our church's Trunk-N-Treat. So we pulled down the giant bag of costumes from the top of the closet and went through them. I got away easy this year. Three of the boys were at Disneylandia with their Daddy, so that just left me with three to dress. Xixi decided she would be a "titty-tat". Xixi translation: her kitty cat was actually a leopard. Maya wanted to be a pirate, complete with eyeshadow, blush and lipstick. She settled for some brown eyeshadow smudged around her eyes.

And Cyan, well....Cyan wanted to be a gangsta rapper.

We researched Little Wayne and Snoop Dogg on google images.

That's when he came up with the baggy pants, his boxer's sticking out, wife-beater and "blingage". The dookie braids and grill were my idea.

He was deep in character all night long.


Recycling at its finest.

This is a testimony as to how broke/cheap I am.

On Monday, Xixi knocked a brand new roll of toilet paper into the toilet. No worries, there weren't any surprises in the water. So as I fished it from the toilet, I thought of how quickly we go through t.p. A 24 pack is gone in a matter of days. I usually have to buy the mamma-jamma package from Costco, or the biggest one they offer at Target.

Granted, we have lots 'o butts to wipe.

But I've also seen how much paper the chil'rens waste. Mounds upon mounds flowing out of the trashcan, stopping up the toilet. I figured if I let the roll dry out, it would be perfectly fine to use. I mean, my butt's not that picky. Well, actually it is.

Nevertheless, I was right. The roll took about five days to dry. I put it back on the roll today. It looked kinda jacked up, but it did a perfectly fine job of wiping.

Perfectly fine, I tell you.

I'm feeling rather smug that I saved a roll of t.p that costs me approximately .33 to buy.



Heebie Jeebies

I'm telling you this so you can have sympathy for me.

I have a very sadistic father who enjoyed torturing his children with scary movies.

He made me and my little brother watch Night of the Living Dead. "They're coming to get you, Barbara!" We must have been about four and five years old at the time. I remember being soooo afraid of that movie. I didn't sleep for days. Days.

When The Exorcist came out, I have vague memories of seeing it. Maybe I was in the back of our yellow Datsun while they watched it at the drive-in, and I peeked. Because somehow I remember seeing that stupid movie. The levitation, the demonic voice, the head spinning...aagggh. And the song...I really, really hated that song. The tubular bells song. It was awful. It would just creep me out.

So the story goes like this: My dad bought the tubular bells album. Yep, that is how old I am...we used to listen to albums growing up. I did not like when he used to play this song because it scared me. So one day, I was upstairs in our little condo in San Diego and my Dad began to play the album. All of a sudden, he hears my chubby little feet stomping down the stairs. I march right over to the record player, scrape the needle across the album and turn it off.

"I don't like that song."

And that was the end of Dad's tubular bells album.


Noah and I were doing some late night shopping for Disneylandia snacks last night. As I'm figuring out which bread to buy, I hear this very song come on. I froze. I literally froze.

All these years later, and that song can still trigger the heebie jeebies in me.

So, I'm standing there, staring off into space. Noah asks, "What's wrong, mom?"

"Childhood trauma."

I told him the album scratching story and he laughs, "That sounds like something Xixi would do!"

He's right, it does. So I leave you with the Tubular Bells song. Tell me if it doesn't give you the heebie jeebies!


Raising a Visionary.

One of the several reasons why Michael and I were compelled to homeschool was because we wanted to give our children the freedom to mature and grow at their own pace. I can take off my mommy goggles every so often and see who they are as individuals. Some are pretty much in line with their age, in terms of maturity. Others have really needed the cushion that homeschooling provides. Then there were the learning challenges. Who else would love them and advocate for them more then their own mother?

Sol just turned 9 last month. He is one of the coolest kids you will ever meet. He always has a smile on his face. He's very lovable and affectionate. He's very helpful. Friendly. He works hard and he loves hard.

But this year is the first year that I began to notice him struggling with his schoolwork. Up until this point, I just thought he was just being scatter-brained. Lazy, even. But I realize now that while everyone else is advancing, he's staying the same. Then I came to understand that he was never at their level to begin with. He's been struggling since day one, getting by on memorization, decoding pictures and having his brother Diego read and write for him, since he constantly flips letters and numbers around--classic signs of dyslexia.

And that just breaks my heart. Because if you knew this boy, you'd know he is very bright. He loves to build things with his hands. He's very active. He's very helpful. He is far from incapable or "dumb".

One thing about Sol...he loves, loves, loves to draw. I think because he faces so many challenges with his learning, the easiest way for him to communicate is to draw. We work on reading, writing and I can visibly see his mind chugging along, like a train on a crooked track...it just doesn't flow smoothly. But put a pencil and drawing pad in front of him, and he just goes and goes, and there is nothing holding him back.

Its like second nature.

Everyone always asks if the chil'rens like to paint and draw, what with having two artists for parents. Some do, more than others. Some show promise, at a very young age. Others looks like should be drawing on the short bus--clearly their gift will be in some other area of life.

But Sol..he's wired for creative expression.

He finished dinner and then got his new "Where the Wild Things Are" book that his grandma bought him, pulled out some paper and set out to create one of the characters. He didn't ask for help. He didn't trace.

He just flowed.

You go, boy.

I like to think that God didn't create him with a learning handicap, or some sort of hopeless disability...but with a different way of seeing things.

He has a fresh pair of eyes.

The same kind of eyes that belong to famous artists, architects, musicians, athletes, inventors and scientists.

So basically, I'm raising a visionary here.

I'm blessed.


Where My Wild Things Are

I must confess. I don't remember Where the Wild Things Are, at all. I should say its the actual story, the words that I don't remember. I totally and completely remember the illustrations in the book. As a library-lovin' book nerd, I would sit and flip through the pages over and over. It might be that I had this book before I could read. Nevertheless, it had a visual impact on me over the years.

When I heard about the movie, I was excited to see it. I knew that the "Max's" of my family would enjoy it, too. So off we went to the drive-in, where every family with more than three children watch movies.

It was a perfect, fall, Sunday night. The drive-in was pretty empty, the chil'rens had their snacks, everyone was bundled in their blankets. Everything was good. It's hard for me to concentrate while at the drive-in, but when this movie began...I can't explain it, it just captured me from the moment it began. The story, the images, the soundtrack, I loved it.

It was almost magical.

I watched the wonder on my kid's faces. It was a mixture of horror, worry, humor, interest, awe. My two "Max's", Diego and Solomon, couldn't take their eyes off the screen, they were so enthralled by the story. I also suspected that their Daddy had a little bit of "Max" in him, too.

I have to say, it really captured my heart. Unbeknownst to me, it captured my son's heart as well. When it ended, Sol came over to me quietly, put his head against my chest and he just started sobbing. It touched him so deeply. Then, of course he made me cry! He laid there for a long time, crying.

What is it, Sol? Why are crying?
I asked him.

Its just so sad. He said.

How do mean? I wondered.

Because he had to leave the Wild Things. That makes me sad. But then he left his family, his mom. That makes me sad, too. Then he started crying again.

Aaah, to have children who are so emotional, who feel things so deeply.
Solomon went on to explain how much he would have liked to have been Max...to play with the Wild Things, to build those cool forts. But to be with the Wild Things meant he had to be away from his family. And that made him sad.

It was so sweet. What was even sweeter was how his brothers and sisters rallied around him, hugging him, patting him on the back, trying to make him feel better.

And that, I guess, is the struggle. To live out the wild rumpus that goes on in their mind...yet to be in the present, with their family who loves them. Yes, that is a struggle indeed.


That's just the way we roll.

We took the chil'rens to the Getty in L.A. last week on a field trip. What a beautiful place. The views overlooking the city from the museum were amazing. We spent a long time out in the garden area. The chil'rens loved all the plants and little trails they had. They had a lush, green grassy area where people were eating sack lunches and napping in the sunlight.

Well, Michael decided it was a perfect spot for the chil'rens to roll down the hill. You should have heard how loud they were. All I could do was stand there and smile...yes, I'm responsible for these little people AND their dad...and roll the camera.


To return or to tailor, that is the question?

I am a relentless shopper. Meaning I will search high and low for something once my mind is zeroed in on its prey. I will bargain shop, I will go to several different locations of the same store, I'll have customer service call their other stores to locate a size for me, I'll hunt online, etc. etc. Then when I find what I'm looking for I'll seek out a coupon to the ends of the earth.

I've been searching for the perfect black blazer. You could say I've watched one too many What Not To Wear episodes. You know the formula...dark rinse jeans (boot cut), cute embellished cami, fitted blazer, pumps and necklace.


You are now a well-dressed milf.

I don't always agree with their formula that they like to impose on everyone (that said, I think I would have to slap the taste outta Stacy's mouth cuz she's a little too sarcastic for own good) but I will say this: that style is universally flattering. And now that I'm getting up in years, I have realized that I can't continue pulling off the jeans, t-shirt, and Vans look. I've tried to polish my style a little. Like my bro says, I'm a bit too bohemian. I've collected some jewelry. I've bought some cute, girly shoes. I buy handbags. I wear earrings. Shoot, I've even worn scarves!

I just can't help the fact that in my heart I am a jeans, t-shirt and Vans girl!

My mind can't seem to grasp the concept of layering. Where some super fashionable people just layer all these cute items and work it, my mind is baffled thinking, what was wrong with the t-shirt? Must we put something else on? But like I said, I've been trying to dress age appropriate, whatever that means. I guess it means I know, after all these years, what looks good on me and what I need to stay far, far away from.

I've been hunting down a black blazer. Something that could be a staple, that I could dress up or down, that I could funkdify with my own style. I found a really cute one at Torrid, on sale for $19.99. Score! The next day when I tried to order it, it was gone. Gone, I tell you! I was so bummed. Finding nice stuff for girls with curves ain't easy. So then I tracked one down at Old Navy, I was excited. I hoped it would fit. I hoped it looked nice in the flesh.

I hoped I didn't look like someone's fat grandma in it.

So it came in today. It's nice but....but the arms are just a fraction too tight. Like I feel I could do an Incredible Hulk and rip the back seam if I really tried. The sleeves are a little long. And it's too big at the waist. I can easily button it up and there is still an excess of material in the back.

Not exactly the fit I was looking for.

That's when my What Not To Wear education stepped in. Why not get it tailored? I thought. Stacy and Clinton say they do it all the time. I mean, I paid less than $40 for it. It would be worth it to get some minor adjustments. I just have no idea where to go and how much I should expect to pay.

So I'm debating. If the peeps that live near me know of someone who tailors, let a sister know. If I can't find someone or its too pricey, I'll have to return it. Along with a denim jacket I bought there like three months ago and didn't like, all for the same reasons. I should have learned my lesson, right?

Anyhow, if any of ya'll tailor your clothes, give me some pointers, por favor!


I'm still alive.

Ever since the chil'rens began school last month, any and all plans and/or projects for my own entertainment have been put on hold. There is just no time. My "spare time" consists of laundry and cooking and flag football and small group and life. I have a couple of paintings that are just sitting there getting dusty because I haven't had the time to nurture them!

Our days have been filled with reading, learning how to write, the solar system, spanish, mastering times tables, etc. I make it to the end of the day feeling like I've been beaten prison style. You know, with a tube sock filled with soap bars so the bruises don't show.


I've been asked to be in a couple of shows for the Day of Dead, coming in a couple of weeks. You don't know how much I'd love to create something new to submit. I have so many things swimming around this big, fat head of mine. Just waiting to come out. But alas, there is no time.

It just isn't my season.

So it must be shelved. I have no animosity about it. Thats just the way it is sometimes. If I do begrudge anything, its the fact that I can't release some of the pent up frustration I have toward life in general. To sit there and just paint, it affords me some much-needed release. Recently, I worked on a clay sculpture project with the high school art class I teach. I sat there with my students and began to shape my own sculpture. It was practically euphoric, to sit there and shape the clay with warm water and manipulate it between my fingers.

I kept sighing and stuff. The students were looking at me like, oh Mrs. Cortes must be havin' a moment.


I had to pass on two shows. Two shows. One, I just couldn't make the deadline. I stayed up for so many days trying to complete it, and I just couldn't make it. My fault, since I knew about the deadline for like, three months. But again, life happened. The second show, I couldn't make the deadline again. My stuff needed to be framed, I needed money to pay for the frames, then I had to drive out to Pasadena, where the gallery is. Couldn't do it.

Oh, poo.

This third show, however, I'm making my best effort to participate in. I'll be submitting works that I created last year, so I won't be killing myself trying to complete something new. I'm really looking forward to this show. You see, when you're an artist, its not so much having your stuff in a gallery. Of course, that is really cool but it's really about the other artists that you'll be showing alongside. If their artwork is amazing, then that elevates yours...it affirms that your art is of the same caliber and deserves to be there.

And that is exciting!

I'll give more details later, I just wanted to let ya'll know that sister girl hasn't forgotten about her art.

I'm just in a resting phase.

But when I come out....B O O Y A H K A H.

Watch out.



Why I could never be a nurse.

I've discovered I'm no good in a crisis situation. Over the years I've developed a queasy stomach for blood and guts. Literally, when I think of a bloody injury, I feel lightheaded, my knees get shaky and my butt quivers. No, not my buttcheeks.

Like rectum quivering and stuff.

Wait. TMI? It's the weirdest sensation.

See! It just happened right now!

I don't remember ever being this way. I've had my share of cuts, surgeries and stitches. I mean, come on. I'm a mama to six chil'rens. I've had live sh!t under my fingernails. I've scooped up drippy boogers (the nasty green kind!) with my hand for lack of a nearby tissue. I've been peed on. I've cuddled a baby only to discover the warmth across my lap was some foul-smelling, bubbly diarrhea. I've rinsed vomit chunks (hotdogs and chili beans!) off of bed sheets.

Come on.


I've given birth at home four times. Those of you that have never had a homebirth, suffice it to say, its not as neat and tidy as a sterile hospital birth. There is amniotic fluid, vernix bits, lady-parts juice, more blood...not to mention the ginormous placenta that gets put in a bowl to be inspected and dealt with later.

My births never affected me in that way. It seemed natural and normal, for some strange reason.

But injuries, they are hard for me to endure. Especially when something happens to the chil'rens. Today Xixi got a metal gate slammed on her hand. And I just fell apart. It seemed like it took Michael a thousand minutes to get to us. I needed him to take care of her because I just couldn't do it. I didn't know what to do to help her. I just knew I had a child in pain, her blood literally on my hands and I had no way of alleviating it for her.

She is okay, thank God. But what really bothers me is my inability to be calm and level-headed when the situation demands it of me. I can't always rely on my husband to rescue me. He's not always going to be around. I'm alone with the chil'rens all day long.

Aside from all that, I have awesome friends. They stepped in to take care of me, to help me wash my hands, to calm me down, to reassure me that Xixi would be okay. They helped bandage her hand, they cleaned her boogers, they gave her juice, they prayed for her. They even give her a giant piece of chocolate cake.

It seems I've passed down the womanly art of consoling oneself with food.

I am thankful for friends that love me, that love the chil'rens.

What's next? I believe I need to take some sort of first aid class, CPR included. Maybe if I have an idea of what to do, it wouldn't scare me so badly.

Maybe it will eliminate the butt quivers, too. One can only hope.


Love, Peace & Soul

Until the day I die, I'll be a Soul Train fan.

While some of you were rockin' your side ponytail, smackin' your frosty pink lip gloss, groovin' to the Go Go's and wearing your sunglasses at night with Dick Clark on American Bandstand...I was getting my groove on with Don Cornelius.

Soooooooooooul Traaaaaaaaaain.

Yep. That's right. My mom would press pause on her whip cracking that took place every Saturday morning while we cleaned the house, and Soul Train would usually be playing in the background. When a good song came on we would turn up the TV. When the Soul Train line would start, we'd get our dance on. We would shake our butts to Patrice Rushen, clap with Earth, Wind and Fire....pass the peas with the JB's.

That is where I got all my dance moves from.

For reals.

The earlier Soul Train is best. I dig the 'fros, the music, the moves. Doesn't it seem like they are all on the same beat? This was before musicians felt that had to cultivate this persona--their brand. They were just themselves, doing what they love.

And it was groovy, baby.
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